Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

9/1/2020
05:05 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Anti-Phishing Startup Pixm Aims to Hook Browser-Based Threats

Pixm visually analyzes phishing websites from a human perspective to detect malicious pages people might otherwise miss.

An anti-phishing startup is rethinking its approach to protecting consumers and businesses from malicious websites with computer vision technology. Pixm's browser plug-in uses artificial intelligence to analyze websites and determine if they're impersonating a legitimate company.

Pixm was founded in 2015 to protect users from browser-based phishing attacks that appear in emails, chats, and social media. Co-founder Chris Cleveland was a graduate student studying machine learning and computer vision, which describes software that can see the same way humans can. He sought to explore how the concept could be applied to block phishing attacks.

At the time, he said, many organizations' anti-phishing tools looked for malicious URLs based on IP reputation or whether or not they'd been involved with a previous attack. Older applications could scan for signatures indicating a website was spoofing Bank of America or Wells Fargo, but only if an attack had already taken place. There was little to detect brand-new phishing threats.

Related Content:

8 Phishing Lures Preying on Pandemic Panic

Cybercriminals Hide Malware & Phishing Sites Under SSL Certificates

"If you're protecting people by showing them the yellow tape where the old crime scene occurred, you're not actually protecting them from the initial crime," Cleveland says. "The bar is low to launch a brand-new attack. … You can do it very fast, and it takes very little knowledge."

Pixm won a pitch competition and took its tool to The Cybersecurity Factory, a program for security startups run in partnership with Highland Capital. The company was connected with a larger organization conducting anti-phishing in a Web-scanning context, scouring the Web to find attacker infrastructure and identify phishing campaigns. Soon, Pixm launched its initial product, an API that accepted URLs and scanned them for "threat needles in the haystack."

When the trial with the larger organization ended, Pixm decided to take its prototype and build it out as a real-time device application. "We figured that this could really solve the problem on the end-user device, which is really where the threat exists," he adds. 

Now, its computer vision technology has been developed into a desktop application with versions for both consumer and enterprise users to detect and alert to browser-based phish. It's platform-independent and available on Chrome, Chromium-based browsers, and Firefox.

Pixm's goal is to approach phishing from an end-user perspective and detect the techniques attackers use to gain trust. Users may see a logo and text that appear trusted but are from a different origin, domain, or IP address. The software is developed based on these psychological cues of trust so it can recognize visual branding associated with commonly phished brands, such as Gmail or Outlook. It currently supports more than 100 brands, Cleveland notes.

"The cool thing about using deep learning and convolutional network tools is that you could perform the same task in real time and you could use actual training data — in our case, from millions of different screenshots and different kinds of phishing attacks — and train algorithms to learn an arbitrary number of patterns and have this run in real time," he explains.

The consumer and business versions of Pixm are built off the same core installable. It's a single-click installation for consumers, Cleveland says. The enterprise version will let admins ensure Pixm is installed across devices in an environment. It will also allow integration with personal devices, given the pattern of attackers targeting victims on both personal and corporate machines. 

"For the enterprises as well … in addition to being able to enforce that on the endpoint, you're also going to have centralized visibility," he continues. "So, if Joe from this department clicks on that threat link, you can see where that activity is and you can respond accordingly."

Cleveland acknowledges that companies in different industries have different privacy and infrastructure concerns and that Pixm is building out capabilities to address these. It's also planning to develop a mobile version of the application to address phishing attacks on phones.

Over time, as Pixm expands its user base, it hopes to be a source of threat intelligence for phishing attacks and use this data to continuously improve its product. 

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Commentary
Cyberattacks Are Tailored to Employees ... Why Isn't Security Training?
Tim Sadler, CEO and co-founder of Tessian,  6/17/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Powerful Cybersecurity Skills the Energy Sector Needs Most
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer,  6/22/2021
News
Microsoft Disrupts Large-Scale BEC Campaign Across Web Services
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-18660
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
GetSimpleCMS <=3.3.15 has an open redirect in admin/changedata.php via the redirect function to the url parameter.
CVE-2020-23962
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
A cross site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Catfish CMS 4.9.90 allows attackers to execute arbitrary web scripts or HTML via a crafted payload entered into the "announcement_gonggao" parameter.
CVE-2020-18657
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability in GetSimpleCMS <= 3.3.15 in admin/changedata.php via the redirect_url parameter and the headers_sent function.
CVE-2020-18658
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Cross Site Scriptiong (XSS) vulnerability in GetSimpleCMS <=3.3.15 via the timezone parameter to settings.php.
CVE-2020-18659
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-23
Cross Site Scripting vulnerability in GetSimpleCMS <=3.3.15 via the (1) sitename, (2) username, and (3) email parameters to /admin/setup.php